512 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2018
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On March 4, 1681, King Charles II granted William Penn a charter for a new American colony. Pennsylvania was to be, in its founder's words, a bold "Holy Experiment" in religious freedom and toleration, a haven for those fleeing persecution in an increasingly intolerant England and across Europe. An activist, political theorist, and the proprietor of his own colony, Penn would become a household name in the New World, despite spending just four years on American soil. Though Penn is an iconic figure in both American and British history, controversy swirled around him during his lifetime. In his early twenties, Penn became a Quaker-an act of religious as well as political rebellion that put an end to his father's dream that young William would one day join the English elite. Yet Penn went on to a prominent public career as a Quaker spokesman, political agitator, and royal courtier. At the height of his influence, Penn was one of the best-known Dissenters in England and walked the halls of power as a close ally of King James II. At his lowest point, he found himself jailed on suspicion of treason, and later served time in debtor's prison. Despite his importance, William Penn has remained an elusive character-many people know his name, but few know much more than that. Andrew R. Murphy offers the first major biography of Penn in more than forty years, and the first to make full use of Penn's private papers. The result is a complex portrait of a man whose legacy we are still grappling with today. At a time when religious freedom is hotly debated in the United States and around the world, William Penn's Holy Experiment serves as both a beacon and a challenge.


Guide to Notes and Abbreviations
Chapter 1 - Origins
Chapter 2 - A Young Man on the Move
Chapter 3 - Cork and Convincement
Chapter 4 - Celebrity
Chapter 5 - The Great Opinionist
Chapter 6 - American Affairs and Popish Plots
Chapter 7 - Penn's Woods
Chapter 8 - To America and Back Again
Chapter 9 - Trouble on Both Sides of the Atlantic
Chapter 10 - Seclusion and Solitude
Chapter 11 - A Return to Public Life
Chapter 12 - Pirates, Penn, and the Pennsylvanians
Chapter 13 - Back in England
Chapter 14 - William, Jr.
Chapter 15 - Prison and After

About the author: 

Andrew R. Murphy is Professor of Political Science and the Richard L. Morrill Distinguished University Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Murphy is the author of Liberty, Conscience, and Toleration: The Political Thought of William Penn (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment from New England to 9/11 (Oxford University Press, 2009).

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